Davy Russell on the new-look Grand National: ‘What a race – it was fantastic’


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  • Davy Russell is a three-time champion jockey in his native Ireland and a dual winner of the Grand National with Tiger Roll. He rode 25 winners at the Cheltenham Festival before he retired in 2023.

    What a race we were treated to in this year’s Randox Grand National. There were no fallers, just four unseated jockeys, and the spectacle at the end, with so many horses coming through with a chance, was something I’ve never seen before. It was fantastic and your eye was drawn in so many directions.

    It looked as if Rachael Blackmore was going to win it again, this time on Minella Indo, because you couldn’t see Paul Townend on I Am Maximus – he was almost hidden behind her. But next thing you know he’d pulled him out and off they went.

    I Am Maximus, trained by Willie Mullins, stood out to me as the horse that would benefit most from the recent changes to the fences, the smaller field size and the standing start introduced this year, and so it proved. Paul even said afterwards that the horse made a couple of slight errors early on but he had the time and space to get his confidence back, whereas in the old Grand National you’d have struggled to do that.

    He had everything in his favour with the ground and he obviously stays, but credit too to his sire Authorized, because that’s his third Grand National win now after two with another of his offspring, Tiger Roll. He was standing in Turkey until recently, but is back in Ireland, so I expect he’ll be in high demand.

    It was clear to see a high class of horse running in the race this year and the second (Delta Work), third (Minella Indo) and fourth (Galvin) were all placed in Gold Cups. The winner looks like he could go down the Gold Cup route next year. It would be a hell of a race if he does.

    The cross-country race comes in for a bit of stick – not from me, I love it – but those three horses have also been cross-country contenders, proving its worth.

    Of course, there’s been plenty of chat in the aftermath about the race being diluted and not the test it used to be, but you’re never going to please all the people all the time. Race organisers were in a no-win situation, but reacted positively and constructively to all the negative press from which they’ve come under fire over the past couple of years.

    A feisty Tiger Roll

    The legends parade started the day on a high – all the past winners looked healthy and well – but especially my former partner Tiger Roll, judging by the number of bucks he threw in! It’s always great to see these fantastic horses and it puts the whole day into perspective.

    It was a marvellous meeting in general, the atmosphere was good and one of the best performances came from the Gordon Elliott-trained Brighterdaysahead with Jack Kennedy on board – she was very impressive. Her dam, Matnie, is amazing. She’s produced several Grade One winners in this filly, Caldwell Potter – who sadly missed Aintree this year – Mighty Potter, Indiana Jones and French Dynamite. Brighterdaysahead has always been very good, but green and backward and hard to get into gear, getting beaten at Cheltenham. But it was a mighty performance at Aintree.

    The talking point coming out of the race is Willie Mullins going to the front in the British trainers’ championship – the last jumps trainer to achieve that was Vincent O’Brien 70 years ago, so what an unbelievable achievement that would be if he pulls that off. The next couple of weeks are going to be exciting.

    ● What do you think of the new-look Grand National and this year’s race? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 18 April

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